Elva Stauffer and corn pie

Elva Stauffer and her traditional Lancaster County corn pie in the Cloister Restaurant. Thursday, August 22, 2019

The Cloister Restaurant is the kind of place where you can polish off a big breakfast along with a couple cups of coffee, leave a generous tip and still get some change back from your 10 dollar bill. 

The spot — closing at the end of August — has a cozy, family-run diner vibe where you can often hear regulars gossiping about local business deals and debating the best trout streams.

A menu favorite? A Pennsylvania Dutch dish: corn pie.

The restaurant owner, Elva Stauffer, 93, who has owned the restaurant — set to close at the end of August — for 47 years, stayed open through this month for one just more corn pie season.

“Quite a few people say that they don’t know what to do now that they can’t come here to eat,” Elva Stauffer says. “I’ll miss it, too.”

The restaurant sells more than 500 corn pies a year and Stauffer has baked thousands and thousands of corn pies in her lifetime.

Still, Stauffer is suprised that many people haven’t heard of, or sampled, a slice of the savory-but-sweet pie that highlights a great summer flavor.

And Stauffer is especially surprised when people in her Mennonite community aren’t familiar with the dish.

Corn pie was a staple on Stauffer’s mother’s table. And her grandmother’s table.

Stauffer’s family has been living in Lancaster County for generations, and the recipe Stauffer uses goes back at least to the 1800s.

She has been baking for decades. As a teenager, she set up shop in the corner of her father’s barn in New Holland and while he sold horses and cattle, she sold pies and soups.

These days, most of her baking is done at the Cloister Restaurant, where she has been in the kitchen almost every day since she and her late husband purchased it in 1973.

The family operates a farm located just a few miles from the restaurant. There they grow the sweet corn used for the pie.

Once a week, Stauffer’s son Ronald Stauffer, who manages the restaurant, makes a run to his brother’s farm and picks up enough fresh white and bi-colored sweet corn to fill a week’s worth of pie crusts.

Because the corn is the main attraction in this recipe, using good, fresh, local corn is essential.

Other corn pie recipes call for the addition of potatoes or chicken, but Stauffer lets the corn shine. Her recipe is simple, but the flavors are anything but.

corn pie

A slice of corn pie on a plate. Cloister Restaurant's corn pie - the restaurant is closing soon. Thursday, August 15, 2019


Family recipe

Even though Stauffer generously shares her family recipe, people often tell her that what they made isn’t quite the same as what’s coming out of Stauffer’s kitchen.

“Different touch maybe,” she laughs.

The recipe is simple: basically corn, salt, pepper and pie crust. On a stove top, over medium heat, put corn, salt, pepper in a pot and add some milk and corn starch to thicken. Cool the mixture and put it in a pie crust. (Cooling the mixture before baking is very important to keep the corn mixture from leaking out when you slice it and serve it, as Stauffer pointed out quite a few times.)

Then, as Elva says, you just “put a lid on it” (a top pie crust) and bake at 350 F for an hour. Serve it warm, too.

“Quite a few people say that they don’t know what to do now that they can’t come here to eat,” Elva Stauffer says. “I’ll miss it, too.”


ELVA STAUFFER’S CORN PIE

Ingredients:

6 cups fresh corn kernels

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

Milk and corn starch until it thickens

Pie crusts (recipe below)

Directions:

In a large pot, mix corn, salt and pepper.

Add milk and corn starch to thicken.

Heat mixture on stovetop.

Take off and let cool in the refrigerator.

Make dough (or use standard-sized premade pie crusts).

Heat oven to 350 F.

Add cooled corn mixture to the pie crust.

Place pie crust lid on top (if desired).

Bake for one hour.

Here's a recipe for a butter flaky pie crust from Allrecipes.com.